As an intern here in the Special Collections Processing Center, I’ve been thrown feet first into a pile of old paper. Almost literally. Whether it was because I mentioned that I loved Shakespeare, or this collection was just next on the list, I was given the Aaron M. Myers papers: three unassuming boxes full of the ephemera of a man in love with the theater, particularly Shakespeare and particularly as performed in Philadelphia. It also includes quite a lot of photographs and assorted other materials, from guidebooks to theater tickets, from a trip to the British Isles from 1935 to 1936.
Aaron Michael Myers received his Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1920s. Both Myers and his wife were dedicated lovers of the theater, and their son Addison went on to become a reasonably well-known actor. Aaron Michael Myers was an assistant or associate professor at Temple University until his untimely death in 1937 at the age of 40. That’s all I know about him. While I could find records of his son (he’s even on IMDB), everything else I know about him comes from Addison Myers’ letter that came with the donation of this collection. From the collection, however, I learned something more about him. He loved to collect things, and was meticulous about what he collected. From his time in the British Isles, he kept and organized pages of postcards for their photographs, as well as prints. There are also years of playbills from the major Philadelphia theaters, and bunches of crackly newspaper clippings I was afraid I was going to break when I tried to read them.
I mentioned Shakespeare, yes? Of course. A large portion of Dr. Myers’ collection is devoted to the Bard. In England, he visited Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon and attended plays at both the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford, and at the Globe in London. Most of the playbills from Philadelphia are from productions of Shakespeare’s plays.
Most of the playbills are from Philadelphia theaters, especially Broad St. Theatre and the Forrest Theatre. Most of the newspaper clippings (and some playbills) concern the Abbey Theatre Players’ several visits to Philadelphia, documenting what they performed in advertisements and reviews.
There’s also a whole file of the first fifteen publications of The Shakespeare Pictorial, a small magazine of essays about Shakespeare, both as theater and as literature.
I thoroughly enjoyed this collection, and look forward to the next one!